Magen

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A galvan magen with a female shape showing off its unique special ability.
And the same again from 4th edition.

Magen, also called Gens Magica ("Magic People"), are a form of highly advanced alchemical constructs native to the Mystara setting of Dungeons & Dragons. An advanced form of homunculus, Magens are artificial humans engineered from exotic mixtures of alchemical fluids, which are poured into a specially crafted mold and then "set" into a solid form, akin to gelatin. The result is a greyish white-skinned humanoid with an appearance determined by the mold used - vain wizards have been known to sculpt magens that look like clones of themselves - with the warmth and textural consistency of human flesh. Artistically inclined magen masters can paint their magens to look less - or more - inhuman, and a skilled artisan can even add texture or the semblance of hair to the normally eerily smooth and bald creatures. Magens normally look like humans, but may be sculpted to have inhuman traits; this can lead to a magen looking like everything from an elf to a fiend to a monstergirl. They never bleed or bruise, they lack any discernible anatomy, and, when slain, their bodies dissolve in a burst of acrid, multicolored smoke and flame.

It's generally accepted that magens were made by skilled wizards who weren't yet strong enough to make a fully-fledged golem... but this kind of flies in the face of some evidence; magens are actually much smarter than golems, even if they retain the golem's characteristic lack of free will, and are capable of speech, following detailed commands, understanding complex procedures to at least the same level as a human of average intelligence, and can even be taught to make simple decisions on their own. Also, making a magen is still quite a lengthy and expensive procedure, so they're not exactly winning points on the quick and cheap meter, either.

Officially, magens have no emotional capacity, although they can be taught to feign emotions to some degree. This justifies their willingness to undertake obviously suicidal orders if directed. And yet, should a magen's master die, they fly into what can only be described as a berserker fury, madly attacking anything and anyone until it is destroyed. Combined with their innate lack of free will - except in incredibly rare circumstances - magens are typically slaves for their wizard or artificer creators, though some lonely yet antisocial types have been known to treat their magens as their friends (or, perhaps, lovers).

Making Magens[edit]

The procedures for making a magen are only implied in Castle Amber, but are detailed thoroughly in their AD&D writeup in the Mystara MCA. In the adventure "Elexa's Endeavor" in Dungeon Magazine #53, it's stated that a wizard needs to be at least 12th level to undertake the procedures, and 10th level to understand them, at least as written in an instruction manual like "The Text of the Magenmaker".

To start with, a prospect magen-maker must have access to a fully-stocked wizard's laboratory, the basic tools for which will set them back a neat 1,000 gold pieces. Then, they need to construct a mold of electrum into which to solidify their proto-magen gelatin; this will cost them between 10,000 to 15,000 gold pieces, depending on if they can make the mold themselves or need to get a metalworker in to custom-build it. Building such a mold will take at least 6 weeks, more for fripperies like hair styling or unusual physical features.

Once the mold is set up, the mage needs to acquire the chemicals, which will cost another 3,000 gold pieces, and begin the long process of blending, stabilizing and incorporating them. This requires 2 weeks worth of non-stop work, and requires so much attention that the mage can't do anything else during this time other than eat and sleep. In addition to the basic formula, the mage will need to add a certain special something depending on what type of magen they want to make, which will be covered below.

Once the chemicals are finished combining, the magen-maker pours their liquid alchemical jelly into the mold and proceeds to cast a barrage of spells on the mold and its goopy contents: in order, they must cast Lightning Bolt, Fabricate, Transmute Mud to Rock, Stone to Flesh, Domination and then finally Lighting Bolt a second time. This collective spell-energy interacts with each other and the reactive gelatin inside, and the wizard rolls a D20 to see what happens:

  • 1: The final lightning bolt is reflected back at the caster, whilst the gelatin goes inert. Creation fails, and a new batch of gelatin must be made (if the caster survives).
  • 2-3: The mold explodes, scattering boiling gelatin and electrum shards everywhere. Everybody in a 10ft radius takes 4d6 damage. Obviously, this is a failed creation. If the caster survives, they'll need to build a new mold and start over.
  • 4-6: Something in the gelatin reacts badly to the magic and it simply congeals into a stagnant mess. The wizard has to clean it out of the mold and make a new batch. Failure, duh.
  • 7-19: Success! A magen emerges from its mold and is ready to serve.
  • 20: Seeming Success! However, the magen has been possessed by a fiend and will eventually turn on its creator.

Magen molds can be reused for new batches of gelatin (so long as they don't explode, obviously). However, the first kind of magen to come out of a mold "charges" that mold; it can only be used to produce more magens of that kind from then on. Different magen formulas will simply go inert - the lingering magical aura just causes a bad reaction. However, after that first exposure, there's a chance that the mold will grow unstable; each time a magen mold is reused, it has to make a save vs lightning, and on a failure, it breaks and becomes useless after the final spell is cast.

Should a mold break despite a success on the magen creation roll, 95% of the time, the magen will emerge as a deformed shambling mess that will dissolve into nothing within minutes. But... 5% of the time, a perfectly formed magen will be created that is fully sentient and self-aware, without the normal lack of will or compulsion to obey its creator.

Note that the above only applies to AD&D! Magens in 4th edition are the product of some ritual and/or special chamber that is not meant for PCs, so rules for making them didn't appear in this edition. Still, one could probably wing it if one wanted.

Breeds of Magen[edit]

The basic magen formula is highly adaptable, and mages constantly experiment with trying new iterations of the recipe. This has led to several distinct kinds of magen, and even this list just represents the best known types.

Demos[edit]

The Demos is the most common type of magen; it has no innate mystical abilities, but is a natural bodyguard, imbued with the innate ability to wield weaponry as if it were a skilled warrior. This makes them quite cheap to produce as well, which adds to their popularity.

In 4th edition, Demos Magen do possess one subtle magical ability; they can partially absorb magical energy when targeted by spells, enabling them to gain a surge of vitality that can let them continue fighting for longer. This power, called Magic Absorption, only works once per encounter. This version can also be identified by its scent, a subtle yet metallic tang.

To create a Demos, the creator dips weapons into the prepared gelatin; this "imprints" the resultant magen with the knowledge it needs to use those weapons.

Caldron[edit]

The Caldron is a magen imbued with the ability to stretch its limbs, reaching 20 feet in length for each limb. Naturally adept at grappling foes with their tentacle-like arms, Caldrons are made extra dangerous by their ability to secrete corrosive acid from their skin, or at least their hands.

Caldron magens are usually used as house-guards or, for the more ruthless owner, as in-house spies and assassins; their distinctly sour, acidic scent and the uncanny sight of their limbs makes them less suited for the public eye than their Demos kindred, but it means they excel at burglary and killing. They also make pretty spiffy house-workers, because those elongated limbs means they can reach everywhere when it's time to do the dusting.

In 4th edition, a Caldron magen can absorb magical energy from spells directed at it and metabolize it, allowing it to temporarily sprout an extra arm with which to fight. Luckily it can only do this once per encounter via Magic Growth, but it's still an alarming trait.

To create a Caldron, the creator must add the tentacles of a roper or a choker to the gelatin. In 4th edition, a dose of acid is also required.

Galvan[edit]

The Galvan is arguably the most spectacular of the magens, as it can absorb static electricity from its environment and turn it into deadly blasts of electrical energy. They are often favored as either ranged guardians to add extra firepower to groups of Demos archers and bolters, or as decoys for their masters, should their masters have a reputation for favoring electrical spells.

In 4th edition, they actually get a little nastier; BD&D and AD&D galvans can only hurl lightning bolts 3 times per day, but 4e galvans can do it at-will. They also can channel electricity through metallic weapons, making them more dangerous in the melee, and can metabolize magic from spells cast on them to replenish their energy reserves and immediately respond with a powerful electric blast via their once-per-encounter Magic Recharge ability. 4e Galvans can be distinguished by a strong ozone scent, the way metal is slightly drawn towards them, and a noticeable static aura that makes one's hair stand on end when they get nearby.

Creating a Galvan requires the use of a body part from a creature that can generate electricty. 4e Galvans also require the inclusion of an iron rod into the alchemical jelly, where it dissolves.

Hypnos[edit]

The Hypnos is the rarest of the "common" magens. Physically frail, it makes up for this with powerful psionics, allowing it the innate ability to control minds.

In BD&D and AD&D, this manifests as the ability to cast a Charm Person spell 1/round, although any creature that resists this effect becomes permanently immune to the Hypnos' charms. Those who succumb see the Hypnos as a trusted friend, and the Hypnos can telepathically communicate with these charmed victims and compel them to obey it (which manifests as a Suggestion spell in AD&D). Creating an AD&D Hypnos type magen requires dissolving a scroll of Charm Person in their gelatin.

In 4th edition, Hypnos magens have a broader array of mental powers, reflecting the different ways that telepathy works in that edition. Their touch shreds at a victim's mind, inflicting psychic damage and imposing a penalty to their Will defense, whilst they can wield potent Suggestion and Overwhelming Command effects to manipulate others like puppets. Once per encounter, they can use the Magic Feedback ability; converting magical energy into a blast of raw psionic agony that shreds at the minds of everybody in close proximity. These magens often serve as a diplomat, personal aide, or majordomo, as they possess a superficial charm and a general knowledge of social convention, due to both innate abilities and tutelage from their creator. Crafting a Hypnos type magen in 4e requires a body part from a psionic creature and the ground up pieces of a magic item that can exert control over others, which are both dissolved into the gelatin - it's said that using an intelligent magic item for this process will produce "impressive but unpredictable effects".

Scalos[edit]

The Scalos magen is the rarest of the known breeds. Introduced in the adventure "Elexa's Endeavor" in Dungeon Magazine #53, this creature has never appeared in any other source. It has the unique ability to teleport others randomly by touching them, but no further information on them has ever been provided. A pair of Scalos are magically summoned to guard "The Text of the Magenmaker", a grimoire instructing a wizard on how to create all of the known varieties of magen.

Publication History[edit]

Magens first appeared in the adventure module X2: Castle Amber for BECMI, made a second appearance for that edition in B12: Queen's Harvest, and then were updated to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the Mystara Appendix for the Monstrous Compendium, which provided an extremely long and detailed writeup of the creatures. After this, they fell into obscurity, but made a surprise re-appearance in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition through issue #418 of Dragon Magazine.